The booming business environment and economy can be felt far beyond Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. The golden age of big, flashy cities driving growth and gobbling up workers is waning. Businesses (and the people they hope to employ) are flocking to midsize cities in higher numbers.
The best places for medium and large business (MLB) expansion are the often-overshadowed “secondary cities,” especially when you factor in real estate costs, favorable tax codes and incentives, and an increasing pool of potential hires. A tight recruiting market driven by record-low employment is encouraging businesses and their future employees to consider the benefits of place. “Place” can be an influential factor, especially when it reduces the cost of doing business and offers a better work-life balance. Here are our 10 best places for MLB expansion and the people who work there.
1. Provo, Utah
Utah’s Ogden-to-Provo corridor, including Salt Lake City and Lehi, has become a top place to do business, home to giants such as Adobe, Microsoft, eBay, and Qualtrics. Provo is #1 in job growth according to the Forbes 2018 Best Places for Business and Careers ranking. It’s long been a hub for innovation in engineering, healthcare, and tech, and is increasingly popular with industries such as banking, transportation, and manufacturing. Tech accounts for 10 percent of Provo’s workforce and much of its job growth—so much so that it’s been nicknamed Silicon Slopes. This best business city is also number 10 on WalletHub’s most educated cities list. The Wasatch Mountains provide a stunning setting as well as abundant nature and an outdoor lifestyle that appeals to many: young, old, and everyone in between.
WeWork has two locations in Salt Lake City/Lehi.
2. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Occupying the #2 spot on Forbes’ 2018 ranking for Best Places for Business and Careers is Raleigh-Durham. The Research Triangle, of which Raleigh-Durham forms two-thirds, is a hub for finance and professional services. Surrounded by universities, it’s no wonder this region has an educated workforce (occupying the #4 spot on WalletHub’s list). World-class STEM research universities fuel its progress, primarily in tech and biotech. Companies such as Cisco, GSK, Lenovo, and IBM call the Triangle home. However, it’s not all about work. Raleigh is fast becoming a tourist destination, thanks to its bluegrass music, beautiful oak trees, temperate weather, and a foodie-worthy restaurant scene.
WeWork has three locations in Raleigh-Durham.
3. Fort Collins, Colorado
Manufacturing and R&D are fueling Fort Collins’ growth, alongside clean energy, bioscience, and agri-tech. With a strong thread of entrepreneurship, many local businesses have become national powerhouses, like New Belgium Brewery. Colorado’s business climate is healthy, with giants like Google moving into Colorado’s Front Range. Add enviable weather across four seasons and endless views of natural beauty that make for an excellent work-life balance, and this small town has all the ingredients for a boom. Fort Collins also enjoys a burgeoning housing market, in part fueled by Denver’s and Boulder’s rising prices. With Colorado State University calling it home, close to 50 percent of the population has a college degree. CSU’s research reputation and facilities are a big reason why high-tech companies such as HP and Intel have relocated here in recent years.
Just 1.5 hours away, Denver has 10 WeWork locations.
4. Orlando, Florida
It’s known for tourism and construction, yes—but Orlando is also a center for film, television, and electronic gaming. The central Florida city also boasts growing tech and aerospace industries, and is a rising star in the startup sector. The factors that make it an excellent environment for new business (low-cost office space, job growth) are also attractive to growth-minded MLBs. People have been moving here at three times the national average, with good reason: white-sand beaches, four seasons of summer, and 233 days of sunshine a year.
WeWork just announced an Orlando location in the Sun Trust Center.
5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A former center for steel manufacturing and a symbol of United States industrial prowess, this Rust Belt city has also been the poster child for its decline. However, Pittsburgh is undergoing a massive evolution thanks to the recent surge in artificial intelligence and robotics innovation, drawing from research and talent coming out of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. Uber recently moved its self-driving cars division here. Despite the real estate boom here, housing prices are still affordable (especially in contrast with high-tech’s other darling cities), which is attractive to younger workers. Built on bridges (446, in fact), this pedestrian- and bike-friendly town also has a thriving arts scene. It’s only natural that Pittsburgh found itself #8 on Livability’s 2019 Top Places to Live.
Stay tuned for news on WeWork Pittsburgh—coming soon.
6. Indianapolis, Indiana
This Midwestern city is not just a destination for car racing and basketball. Indianapolis is also a town with a diversified economy that spans tourism, education, finance, and healthcare, to name a few. A hub for education, Indianapolis boasts six area colleges and universities and a young, educated workforce. Consider also that the cost of living is below the national average, and you get all the right ingredients for businesses and their workers to thrive. Indiana garners consistent recognition for its low cost of doing business. Salesforce, Eli Lilly, and Anthem all have operations in Indianapolis.
7. Columbus, Ohio
Located in Central Ohio, this midsize city’s reputation is on the rise because of its business-friendly environment and quality of life for millennial workers. Columbus has a young, educated workforce, thanks to its flagship university, Ohio State, and has been welcoming a healthy influx of new transplants over the past decade. Home to one of the largest Midwestern venture capital firms, Drive Capital, Columbus’ tech sector is gaining steam. It landed on Amazon’s shortlist of 20 HQ2 finalist cities and won the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge grant.
8. St. Louis, Missouri
If we had to describe St. Louis in one word, it would be momentum. The city is on the ascent in part because of a commitment to redefining itself as a city that inspires, supports, and sustains startups. This evolution feels natural for a city with strong roots as a center for 19th- and 20th-century innovation. Shipping, biotech, and agri-tech all have a sound footing here, and the startup sector is sure to be an asset to other industries. This best business city is also a perhaps unsurprising contender for the first Hyperloop, a project that would connect it to Kansas City in a quick 25-minutes.
9. San Antonio, Texas
This Lone Star city is thriving, mostly under the radar unlike its attention-seeking, capital-city neighbor to the north (looking at you, Austin). Military and defense, construction, finance, startups, healthcare, government, and yes, tech are significant growth drivers here. USAA, G2S, Valero, and Frost Bank all operate out of San Antonio. With its business-friendly environment, and a plethora of culture, festivities, entertainment, and historical sights, the city is one of the fastest-growing in the country. The cost of living is less than the national average, and San Antonio’s median home price is 29 percent lower than the national median.
10. Phoenix, Arizona
Telecommunications, high-tech, tourism, and military and defense are big business for the Valley of the Sun. A host of international companies have opened up offices in Phoenix in recent years. With a young workforce, lower housing costs, and a more affordable quality of life, companies such as Uber and Yelp now call Phoenix home. Nikola Motor Company, an electric vehicle manufacturer, is slated to open up over 2,000 jobs in Phoenix over the next five years. Companies that were founded here—including the marketing-technology company Infusionsoft—also continue to grow.
WeWork has four locations in the greater Phoenix area.
Cultural shift toward long-term sustainability
In the article for Inc. referenced above, John Boitnott interviewed the cofounder of the growing mattress seller Tuft & Needle to get his take on why the company chose Phoenix, Arizona, for its base of operations. Boitnott revealed that when the founders envisioned the next phase of their business, they wanted to move away from a Silicon Valley culture that valued short-term gambling. Instead, they opted to invest in a midsize city where future employees are looking for roles where they can contribute over the long haul. Perhaps Tuft & Needle’s founders touched on the biggest reason we see this shift from global powerhouse cities to smaller, intentionally reimagined cities. Businesses and the people they employ have more choices. Many are using the power of choice to live in and invest in these cities for a host of reasons that contribute to better lives and more sustainable growth. It’s hopefully a shift toward creating better work cultures across the board.
Looking for a flexible office solution for your medium, large, or enterprise business in one or many of these cities? Talk to us today!